May 29, 2015

Notes on My Straw Bale Garden Experiment

Straw Bale Garden May 30 2014
I have very little sun in my yard for a vegetable garden. The only sunny spot I have is on a slope where all the water in the neighborhood drains through.  Even if I amended the soil and tilled it up, the next rain would wash it away.I decided last year to try Straw Bale Gardening. I read all the articles I could find on the subject and then, in typical Kathy  fashion, I tweaked what I had read to suit my situation. I'm totally OK with organic but I honestly didn't want to go to the expense and trouble of organic fertilizer etc so I used a pelleted 6-12-12 fertilizer. I tweaked my recipe again this year.

As you can see above, we put metal fence posts in the ground to hold the bales in place. These are permanent so I'm good to go this year. I also put greenhouse ground cover on the ground last year before we laid out the bales and it should  last several years. JoJo helped. The wires in the photo above were added to hold up tomatoes and vines.

The following is what I did this spring to start my garden and so far it is working as well as all the trouble I went to last year (adding fertilizer several days, watering it in, etc)

Be sure you use straw bales NOT hay bales. Place then CUT SIDE UP where you want to garden. I didn't get around to buying the bales this year until the 2nd week in April.  It was a couple of weeks before I got around to preparing the bales. When I did get to that, I sprinkled  all the bales liberally with 6-12-12 pelleted fertilizer and watered it in good.   That's all I did! God watered it well because we have had a fairly wet spring.

When I got ready to plant or put my baby seedlings into the bales (about 3 weeks after the application of fertilizer), I added about an inch or two of well rotted horse manure to the tops of all the bales. Compost would work too - that's what I used last year. This helps especially if you are planting seeds. All you need to do is pry the straw apart enough to poke the plants in. The compost helps fill in the space around them. Water in and you are done!

I set my first plants the 2nd weekend of May. I did plant Asparagus Bean seeds straight into the manure on top of the bales. They were up in less than a week! Last year I had beans and peas and they did well but I decided not to plant them this year. They took up too much room and after all, beans are cheap in summer. The Asparagus Beans are not available in my local market so I added them in among the squash and pepper plants. They will grow up and the squash will grow down.

Squash Buds
It is only the  5th week so my babies have been growing in the bales for only 2 weeks, They are looking great - the squash even have tiny buds! Beans are up too. I planted Lettuce about 3 days ago and look how fast it has jumped up! You can see the Manure in the pictures. I'm sure we will have a yummy harvest of Tomatoes, Squash, Peppers, Basil, Dill, Beans and lettuces. I'm going to plant lettuce seeds every two weeks until the weather gets too warm.

Baby Lettuces

Last year I planted the squash near the ends of the bales. I repeated this again this year. They grew down over the sides and onto the ground cover - no mildew or insects! I had one squash borer and I buried the bad place under the compost and the vine just kept on growing and making squash!

I plan to write another Kindle book about my straw bale experiments this fall.

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